As gamers, I’m sure that we have all dreamed of being able to publish our own creations. We all have that picture of what we think is the perfect game, and curse developers when they fail to deliver it. In SuperMash you are given the chance to blend several genres to make the randomised title of your dreams.
Developed by Digital Continue and published by Limited Run Games, you will be expected to mash together as many wonderful ideas as you can conjure up. So what is the point? Random, fun, and that is it! It’s mindless, retro gameplay that will tweak at those nostalgia fuelled nerve endings.
So, how do you mash together games?
The game starts with a colourful cutscene that describes the lay of the land. A group of friends run a failing computer store, the lease has been terminated and you have 1 month to move out. Our hapless heroes have previously visited a garage sale and were given a box of junk as a gift for their kindness. Unbeknownst to them, this box is like the magic beans in Jack and the Beanstalk. It is the gift that keeps on giving and is the gateway to the future of gaming. In the box is a double slotted console, and after some experimenting the team of friends discover it allows them to mix genres together to make a new game. And so the scene is set, and the concept becomes clear. You must save the store by creating hybrid mutant games.
6 categories await you; Stealth, Shoot ‘em up, JRPG, Metrovania, Action/adventure and platform. Each pay homage to the early days of Nintendo, and their policy of experimenting to create weird and wonderful titles. Each style utilises a classic approach, with instantly recognisable characters and gameplay styles. Combining them leads to some brilliant results, but also produces some stinkers. You are warned at the start that you may create; easy, impossible, fun, frustrating or broken games. And you are also told to expect fun, and that is something you definitely experience.
A tale of 2 concepts.
The gameplay is split into 2 portions; An action visual novel (VN) and the mashed up creations. Each depends on the other, but you need not pay too much attention to the VN portion. It’s weak in its writing style and is used as a lame excuse to progress the storyline. The game progresses as you complete tasks that are in a journal that came with the console. Completion of each section allows you to face a boss, and then you proceed onto the next segment.
The fun for me was in the random outcomes that you attempted and succeeded at. Who wouldn’t want to play “Happy Jump” or “Vylania’s Dungeon?” As a concept it was fantastic, unless the randomly generated worlds failed to allow a successful outcome. Walls would be spawned in front of the final item, or monsters would spawn and be impossible to kill. I know it could be considered luck of the draw, but it simply left a bad taste in my mouth.
Indie games full of glitches.
As gamers, we all hate glitches. They allow for unfair advantages, crash your attempts, and simply ruin your enjoyment. Put this mindset on hold when playing SuperMash, as these issues are a deliberate portion of the gameplay. Dev cards are collected and purchased throughout your time in the shop. You can then use these to enhance your character, or to tip the balance in your favour. Spawn extra items, kill random enemies, invincibility and more await you. But where there is good, there must be bad! For all the positive bugs, negative ones infect your title as well. Enemies are quicker, the screen jitters and shakes, health spawns faster than you can shoot, and so on. Once you start glitching, it’s hard to stop, so be careful how you use your cards.
Classic inspiration with retro graphics.
Part of the joy of this is the brilliant retro styling that matches each of the genres. Digital Continue hasn’t strayed far from the path in design and look. Character models look deceptively close to the original protagonists, and this adds a layer of amusement when you see one of your heroes in a world that they shouldn’t exist. A variety of perspectives are used to emphasise each category, but each uses a beautiful vivid colour palette to create their visions. If you do not like pixelated or old-school imagery, then you will probably want to give this a miss. But if you are a fan, then you will enjoy the presentation.
As with the graphics, the audio keeps things simple and reminiscent of the era the theme is dated to. A ridiculous mixture of over the top sound effects, and chiptune music forms the backbone of the sound files. It’s all oddly familiar, even though none of the music has been used before. If you are old enough, then this trip down memory lane will bring back some fond memories.
Each game is as easy to control as the last!
No matter the category, or the mashup, you will master each in seconds. An intro that explains the controls and your special powers acts as a tutorial, and then the rest is down to you. Your only limitations will be your own skill set. I’m terrible at platform games, and this didn’t change when trying this. No matter your experience level, you will play this without issue. It’s well designed, straightforward and easy to pick up.
If you can get over the lack of depth in the gameplay, then you find that there is plenty of replay value to be had. An untold number of combinations can be produced, some a success and others, well, rubbish. Hours of playtime lay ahead of you, and a large and challenging achievement list is there if you are so inclined. At £16.74 it is a little pricey for concept, but great value for context.
Will you get sick and tired of Mashing?
The random nature of the creations and the variety of genres leads to a lot of possibilities, yet it feels hollow. In design, it’s a fantastic idea that could have been developed and nurtured, think Super Mario Maker. In reality, you crave more control over the outcomes and want to feel that you have created an excellent title. Even when you have a great result, it never reflects on your abilities as it always relies on luck rather than judgement. Do I recommend it? I’m on the fence! I’ve had fun, and experienced some enjoyable things, but it isn’t quite enough for me. If you want to see what it’s all about, you can buy it here! Can you save the game store from going bust? Will you be able to design the next big thing? Luck and no judgement are required to beat this colourful retro title.